Thursday, October 31, 2013

Midnight and the Great Pumpkin

Every year at this time Midnight gets a bit nervous. The appearance of the Pumpkins is his first clue that something major is about to happen. Then the Witches and Goblins appear, followed closely by the dreaded Trick or Treaters, who completely baffle him. He usually hides just out of sight to watch this annual parade of the dead and undead. He sees lots of things going into their sacks, but nothing ever comes back out. That is frightening to him.

Midnight is an asset to my blog. He gets fan mail. Really! And these people expect answers to their notes. Most of the time I answer for him, as his paw printing is still not what it should be. He is, after all is said and done, a stray. And getting him to attend school on a regular basis is somewhat akin to trying the same thing with Huck Finn; that is; it’s just not going to happen. So I write something nice and just affix his paw print to it before sending it on.

But, for all of his skittishness concerning the Halloween ritual, he is always back at his post, sitting on the porch at about midnight; the hour for which he is named; waiting, like Linus, for the arrival of the Great Pumpkin. It hasn’t happened yet, but when it does Midnight intends on being there to greet him.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

"Meeting Sue" - Half a Life Ago

It was 30 years ago this evening that I first met my wife. That means we have been together for just over half our lives at this point. We were both 29 when we met. It was at a Saturday night Halloween party in Baltimore. I could recount it here; but instead I’ll just re-post the story of that night; and the week which followed. The rest, as they say, is history. The above photo was taken several months later in Virginia Beach. I am dressed as usual, while Sue is in costume.

I arrived back in New York and stayed briefly with Mark and Lois. I wanted to get back to school quickly and obtain my Third mates License. By October 8th, 1983 I was back in Baltimore, this time renting a one room “flat” on the corner of Eager and Calvert Street. This was still on the edge of the gay neighborhood and just 3 blocks North of Peabody Institute and the Washington Monument. With a kitchen alcove area and a main room for sitting and sleeping it was all I needed. It was also just a half story above street level.

I set about, as usual, in making friends with my neighbors. These included two girls who were studying Chamber Music at Peabody. Their names were Mary and Mary. So I called them M and M. On Sunday mornings around 11 AM they would come down to my place for brunch. I would make stuffed mushroom caps with crab meat and pour the wine while they played Cello and Violin for me. Not too bad a trade when you think about it.

I had been seeing a girl named Mari before I left and had bought her back a beautiful enameled 20 karat gold ring from Turkey. But things were kind of “not there” between us and so I found myself looking at a lonely birthday in Baltimore. And to make matters worse I was without weed and had stopped drinking. This was going to be a lot of fun….

Walking around and hoping to meet someone to celebrate with I started drifting toward the “bad” side of Eutaw Street and into the area where pot was sold openly. I asked around a bit but nobody wanted anything to do with me. I was in good shape, well fed and they decided I was a cop! So I finally went into my birthday spiel-“Hey it’s my birthday and I just got into town, don’t know anyone etc.” No one believed me and I finally had to show someone my ID with my birthday on it in order to get some grass!

School was good and I was making a lot of progress. I had to get my CPR certification and some other Red Cross stuff so I signed up for the classes at the local Red Cross. I forget what the exercise was but you had to pull someone around on a blanket. My partner was some Jewish girl who was about my age and had a ticking biological clock. You could actually hear her planning the wedding and everything. But that didn't prevent me from asking her out and we saw each other a few times but “no spark” for me.

It was getting near to Halloween, which was at that time one of my favorite holidays. The parties and costumes all added up to some fun and I was looking forward to it. The Thursday night before Halloween a short chain of events began that would have a serious impact on my life.

I was walking by the old Greyhound Station on Howard and Monument Street when I noticed a woman being hounded by an older black guy. He was obviously following her and she was obviously uncomfortable with it. He was talking to her in a lecherous way and you could see her fear.

Crossing the street I walked up behind them both from an angle and slipping my arm into hers I smiled and said to her, “Sorry I’m late.” Fixing him with a glare I said, “Thanks for watching out for my girl, bro.” And then I walked her around the corner and out of sight.

Dropping her arm I apologized and she assured me there was no need to, as she needed the rescue. Her name was Mary and as we walked along a bit I let her know we should split up now as I could be part of a scam. She seemed pretty unconcerned but agreed. She also suggested that I meet her on Saturday night at an activist Church nearby that was hosting a Halloween Party. I agreed and we parted.

I decided to go to the party at the Church because I was kind of sick of the bar scene at the time. And the fact that Mary would be waiting for me was a definite enticement. The big question was what to go as. I finally decided to go as a Tom cat- you know- looking for a kitty. So I took a wire hangar and stretched it out to an acceptable length- then I added a grey scarf which I wound around the hangar/tail and topped that off with some swirls of masking tape. Attaching the wire hangar to my rear belt loop and adding some whiskers to my face with a blackened cork, I was off to the races.

The Church was one of those “activists” ones. By that I mean they were really not that religious- they were kind of a gathering spot for political activists touting such causes as El Salvador, Legal Defense Funds, Battered Women, and After School Care etc.

Mary was there waiting with some friends and the party was already started. There was a band playing and they had some really tacky disco lights going. The biggest surprise of the evening was when Mary and I were dancing and she started doing cartwheels and all sorts of splits to the music. Turned out she was a gymnast and I started thinking of all the fun we might be having later on utilizing her skills…

Her friends were a group of 6 really nice looking women- some doing post graduate work, some still working towards degrees and a couple of guys who were reading Law in prep for the Bar. A very interesting crowd…

Some slow dancing began and Mary and I enjoyed the closeness and we shared a first kiss. The night was progressing nicely when at about midnight Mary got ready to go. I was confused by this. She was leaving alone and passing me on to her friends. We agreed to call one another etc.

Around 1 AM the friends, none of whose names I recall, invited me to accompany them by van to another party at the Activists Lawyers League. This party was being held at the old Enoch Pratt Free Library on the corner of Kirk and Gorsuch Streets in East Baltimore. There were lawyers and aspiring lawyers everywhere. There was lots of liquor and music, too.

I set about dancing with the ladies who had brought me there. Then I started dancing with women who asked me. I was having a great time when I spotted a woman who was standing off by herself and looking like she was not having the best of times. So I approached her and asked for a dance. She turned me down, flat and cold. “No, thanks.” The Iron Curtain. So I went back to dancing with this one and that one. But it really bugged me that this one woman wouldn't dance with me. So I asked again-same results. “No, thanks.”

After about the third time I’m thinking, “What’s her problem- it’s just a dance, not a commitment!” So I asked her again in a different way. “I've danced with every woman here tonight and you’re the only one that said no. Dance with me and I’ll leave you alone forever.” Reluctantly she began to dance- with me talking as we did. I was telling her that I had just got back from Turkey and Lebanon and when the music stopped we kept talking. Her name was Karen. As we were talking she told me, “I have 2 kids so if that’s a problem let me know.”

After a bit some friends of hers were going outside to smoke a joint and I readily agreed. We went and huddled at the bottom of the basement steps and smoked a few before heading back in. Karen had gone to the party at the urging of some neighbors and friends.

A little while later I felt a finger trace up my back and turning around I was looking at Karen who said, “My name’s in the book.” She gave me her address and left. It was about 3 AM. I left shortly afterward and passing a phone booth I looked her up. The address was incorrect and the name didn’t quite match. It said K. Sue Hart. Still I walked home in the frigid early morning air, warmed by the evening and the dancing.

The next day I called the number in the book, which was now changed, so I called the new number. Turned out to be the right one- her name was Karen Sue. She went by the name of Sue and used the name Karen as a way of confusing the jerks and would be stalkers. We talked for hours and then agreed to meet for Chinese food on Tuesday night. She would get a sitter. After explaining that I had no car she offered to pick me up at my apartment.

Tuesday arrived and the day seemed interminably long as I waited for the evening to arrive. I was waiting at my window when her car turned the corner of Calvert and Eager Street. She parked and rang my bell.

I opened the door and there she was- blond hair with green eyes. Looking shyly down she handed me a bunch of flowers! We left for dinner almost immediately and walked to Tony Cheng’s which was only 3 blocks away.

We had Peking duck and talked about ourselves. She was divorced with 2 boys, 8 and 6 years old. Their names were Keith and Shane. She was originally from Chambersburg, Pennsylvania and had left because of the small town atmosphere. They actually listed the divorces in the local newspaper. This kind of stigmatized the ladies in certain ways. Also the job market would be easier to crack in Baltimore so she moved down 2 years earlier and took a job at Social Security Headquarters. She had put a down payment on a small house nearby and began her life anew.

We went back to my place after dinner and talked a bit more. There really was no place to sit other than on the edge of my bed or at the tiny kitchen table. We chose the edge of the bed. It wasn't long before I kissed her. We lay back on the bed and kissed again. Things were going well when she suddenly sat bolt upright and told me she had to go- the sitter was only staying until 10 PM and it was 9:30 now.

We made arrangements to meet on Saturday morning at her place to drive the kids to their Dad’s for the weekend. We spoke on the phone every day that week while waiting for Saturday to arrive. When it did I took a cab to her house and met the kids for the first time.

They were typical kids, running and shouting. They seemed uninterested in me, like I was just one of many passing through. We drove up to Chambersburg, dropped them off and then Sue showed me around her home town and introduced me to some friends. I got the feeling she was showing me off!

We arrived back in Baltimore that evening and I made my famous NY Strip Steak covered with Back Fin Lump Crabmeat and then topped with Muenster cheese. Dinner was about ready when Sue suggested we have dessert first…

Monday, October 28, 2013

"I, Toto" by Willard Carroll (2013)

In this highly imaginative and creative book, author Willard Carroll gives voice to the iconic Toto of “Wizard of Oz” fame. The inspiration for this book seems to have come from a chance discovery on the site of the old kennels where Toto was housed and trained by Carl Spitz. The area was being demolished for the widening of Ventura Blvd. when Mr. Carroll came upon a metal box in the debris.

That box contained a scrapbook of the legendary Terrier, who was actually named Terry, and appeared in over 12 films opposite stars such as Shirley Temple and Spencer Tracey, Wallace Beery, Jack Benny, Frederic March, Ida Lupino and of course, Judy Garland, to name a few.

Cleverly taking publicity stills form the films in which Terry appeared, both before and after “The Wizard of Oz”, the author is able to trace the career path which led him to the role as Toto. And, in between, the author dons the persona of Terry and tells his story.

I picked this book up as an antidote to a heavy tome I was reading, and from which I needed a break. Books come in all forms, shapes and sizes. Though this book barely hits 100 pages, it will fill your heart. 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Billy Sunday - Golden Chains of Love (1929)

One of the most controversial religious figures of the 1920’s and 1930’s used to be play ball for Chicago, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia before becoming an evangelist. He was known as one of the fastest base runners to ever take the field. His name was Billy Sunday, who could preach as fast as he could run.

He is most often remembered for his speech about sin, in which he vowed, “I'm against sin. I'll kick it as long as I've got a foot, and I'll fight it as long as I've got a fist. I'll butt it as long as I've got a head. I'll bite it as long as I've got a tooth. And when I'm old and fistless and footless and toothless, I'll gum it till I go home to Glory and it goes home to perdition!"

I’ve never been too overly fond of evangelists, seeing them as more of a division than a unifying force. Religious beliefs are so very personal in nature, while evangelical preachers often lead flocks who have little knowledge of their own religion beyond what the preacher tells them. Still, in the days before television, the revival meetings were a form of entertainment. They swept into towns in a carnival like atmosphere, sucking everyone along with them and leaving town flush with cash.

Not much has changed since the days of Billy Sunday. Were he alive today he would be in Heaven here in Hell on Earth. But, with so much for him to rant about; from the moral decay of society in general, to the misguided; and sometimes downright evil; intentions of most of our elected officials, he would probably be speechless. Still, the videos are fun to watch.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

"Trick or Treat" with Donald Duck (1952)

Donald Duck gets a hard lesson from his nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie when he tries to cheat them out of a bit of candy for Halloween. We all had neighbors like this when we were kids. They’d either not answer the door, or throw a penny or two in your bag at best. Chalk was invented for people like that.

Of course my favorite Halloween memory involves hurling an egg 5 stories up from the center of Ocean Avenue in Brooklyn, where it sailed perfectly into an open kitchen window. No one stuck their head out to yell, and maybe nobody was even home. If not they must have wondered how the egg got out of the refrigerator in the first place. But, I digress.

With the aid of a witch, Donald’s nephews literally are able to make their Uncle dance to their own tune. And before it is over he will learn to respect the yearly tradition of trick or treating. The cartoon was produced by Disney Studios and released via RKO in time for Halloween 1952. There was even a poster for the release, which I have shown below.

Jack Hannah directed this cartoon. The title song, “Trick or Treat” was written by Paul J. Smith and is performed in that perfect 1950’s harmony by a group called the Mellowmen. Clarence Nash is the voice of Donald, and his nephews; while the voice for Hazel is provided by June Foray.

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Perfect Family

When we lived in Hampstead, Maryland; which is about 25 miles to the northwest of Baltimore; we lived next to the “perfect” family. It used to drive me nuts, seeing them trim the lawn together while I couldn't get my own kids to pitch in with the chores without resorting to out and out violence.

When it snowed the entire family; which consisted of “Fran” and “Vincent”, along with their two children; a daughter by her previous marriage and an infant son which they had together, all shoveled the driveway. Now, my own family was of a similar make up; with Sue’s two sons from her first marriage and an infant daughter of our own; so I was a bit miffed at what I perceived to be the better performance by my counterpart in the enemy camp; Vincent.

How was he able to pull off such feats as getting the family to do what they needed to do? And, further to my amazement, all of this was accomplished without the yelling and fighting which was kind of normal in our home.

I mean, this guy, when he washed his cars the whole family was out there. I washed ours alone. He had his infant son toddling after him with a toy mower when he did the lawn, my kids couldn't have cared less. And when the skies deposited 18 inches of snow one January day, they pulled their kids on a sled into town and had snowball fights on the front lawn. My own children were glued to an Atari game.

Their family even grocery shopped together! It drove me mad. Until one day when I noticed that “Fran” was often to be seen in the parking lot of the local Shell station talking for hours with the local policeman; we only had one in the town at the time; or with some of the many young volunteer firefighters. You couldn't swear that there was anything untoward about this behavior, but at the same time it did seem odd.

Time passed; we lived in that house for 11 years; and we had seen 2 different neighbors come and go before “Vincent” and “Fran”. Little did we know that we would soon be seeing them depart as well. The signs were there; the family was not out as often together, and “Vincent” seemed to be spending more and more nights working late at the office. Gone was his joyful demeanor, replaced with a grim resignation to do his duty as a parent to his children.

Where was “Fran”? The lovely neighbor next door had moved in with one of the young firefighters, initially even taking her 14 year old daughter with her! “Vincent” put a stop to that and soon was raising both kids by himself, while “Fran” was making the rounds of the local firefighters.

I don't know whatever happened to them , or the children. But I do know that my impression of my own family changed as a result of the incident, and I found myself more and more content with my own "imperfect" wife and children.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

"The Best of the Dean Martin Variety Show" - (2001)

Sit back and get ready to enjoy the shortest hour ever in front of your television. Dean Martin was a very unusual guy, with very unusual demands to be met if he were to even do the show that the network pitched at him. He was not expected to rehearse, could choose his guests, and not even sing if he felt so inclined. You would've expected the network to turn him down, and you would have been wrong.

This was 1965, the year after Dino had boasted to his son that “I’m gonna knock the Beatles off the charts” in the summer of 1964, as the country; indeed the world; was in the throes of Beatlemania. And guess what? Not only did he make good on that promise; with the smash recording “Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime”; but The Dean Martin Show was still on the air 5 years after the Beatles had released their last album in 1970.

In this fast paced collection of some of the finest moments from the show Dean performs with old pal Frank Sinatra, Ann Margaret, Jack Benny and more. But the best bit on here is the lesson provided by Victor Borge on how to sing musical notations, using sounds for commas, colons, and quotation marks to name a few. Now, this was Mr. Borge's  original skit, and it's really fantastic how quickly Dino adapts to the routine, even adding a few “notations” of his own in the bargain.

If you are a Dean Martin fan; or even if you have never seen him perform before; this will be one of the fastest hours you have ever spent in front of your television. And, whether you are young or old, this will have you longing for the return of the old variety shows which used to dominate TV land.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Midnight and the Grasshopper

Midnight has been hanging around our house for a bit over 2 years now. He has weathered the heat of 2 summers, along with the biting cold of 2 winters. Honestly, I don’t know how he does it. Basically, he’s homeless and relies upon Sue and I to provide him with the dry food and tuna fish on which he subsists. He has no instinct when it comes to killing something to eat, so I am locked into this relationship with him. After all, it was I who fed him in the first place. What’s that saying about “if you save someone’s life you are responsible for it?” Well, I’m living it.

Midnight makes friends very easily. He has no one except for me and Sue to play with; meaning that he’s pretty much on his own. So, he has some unusual friends for a cat. There’s this grasshopper for starters; which he enjoys swatting with his paw. Notice how his claws; which are not trimmed; are curled in so he can play with his friend without inflicting any damage. No matter though, the grasshopper is free to hop away at any time, leaving Midnight to search for it in the bushes. He also plays with the little green frogs in this same manner.

Then there’s the matter of the birds; with whom he has become overly friendly; allowing them to eat from his dry food bowl, and even take some home with them; while he sits, or lays, only inches away watching them come and go like planes at JFK. He knows more food is coming, and besides, he doesn't pay for it. But even if he did he would probably still share his food with his feathered friends. I think he’s hoping that they will someday teach him how to fly.

Here he is, looking for a cricket in the thicket...

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

"My Father, My Lord" with Assi Dayan (2007)

Rabbi Eidelman (Assi Dayan) is a strict biblical scholar. He believes; much like the Bible thumping Baptist Preachers of yore; that everything in the Bible is there for a purpose, and therefor to stray from its teachings is to invite ruination.

His wife, the aptly named Esther, played by Sharon Bar, is more open to ideas outside of her husband’s strict fundamentalist religious interpretations of life. She believes in other things as well. This puts her at odds with her husband, but at the same time forges a bond between herself and her soon, Menahem, played by Illan Grof, who is about 8 years old.

Menahem cannot do anything to please his father. Full of natural curiosity for a boy his age, everything he does invites new criticism from the Rabbi. When the family takes a vacation as a way to escape the rut they have fallen into, the boy’s natural inquisitiveness at the seashore serves to renew the animosity between the father and son, drawing his mother into the fray as well.

What happens after that serves as a testament to the words in Proverbs 11:29 which says, “He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind: and the fool shall be servant to the wise of heart.”

This is a very poignant film with an important message for everyone about tolerance and the philosophy of live and let live. And, in these troubled  times it is a message well received.

Saudi Arabia to Cool Relations with U.S.

The following is the text from a news article which appeared on the internet today. The illustration is from my collection of political cartoons, and this one dates back to about 1974. How many more decades will we allow ourselves to be ridiculed by the same miscreants who funded the events of September 11th?

DOHA (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia's intelligence chief has said the kingdom will make a "major shift" in relations with the United States in protest at its perceived inaction over the Syria war and its overtures to Iran, a source close to Saudi policy said on Tuesday.

Prince Bandar bin Sultan told European diplomats that Washington had failed to act effectively on the Syria crisis and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, was growing closer to Tehran, and had failed to back Saudi support for Bahrain when it crushed an anti-government revolt in 2011, the source said.

Monday, October 21, 2013

"Roosevelt's Centurions" by Joseph E. Persico (2013)

Of all the biographical compilations I have ever read, this one is the most personable and informative. Combining history with the biographies of the men who made it, author Joseph Persico creates a clear and vivid portrait of the group of extraordinary men who literally saved the world for Democracy.

At the same time he delivers an accurate and lively history of the war itself, introducing each character as they enter they enter the narrative and then giving you the back story on each. And what stories they are!

Filled with anecdotes, interlaced with the actual events, many of these stories have been ignored by other authors who were focusing more on the history of the war, rather than the personalities of the men who waged it. Looking at history in this manner is a breath of fresh air. I love history in any form, but when it is presented in this way, that history springs to life.

From the affable “Hap” Arnold, who was quite a pioneer in his own way; to the gruff Admiral King, the highly organized General Eisenhower, the extremely competent General Marshall; and President Roosevelt; along with Winston Churchill; the author displays each in all their glory.

Winston Churchill is particularly interesting. The man drank like a fish, and his brief relationship with White House Butler Alonzo Fields, just days after Pearl Harbor, will make you laugh out loud. Churchill was quite a character.

Roosevelt is portrayed as highly intelligent and in command at all times, in spite of his illness. His ability to switch gears from the stress of the war and still retain his composure was astonishing. He had definite ideas about how the war should be prosecuted, but was wise enough to back down when necessary. The insights into his illness and his strategy are of paramount interest to anyone interested in the full story of the war.

The decision to concentrate on a policy of “Europe First” didn’t sit too well with the American public, who were still reeling from the attack on Pearl Harbor. That outrage gave way to the Doolittle Raids.

The planning of the first strikes on Japan with the Doolittle Raids is a fascinating story all on its own. In order to let our pilots fly in the Chinese Air Force as the Flying Tigers, the pilots had to resign their American commissions and then be employed as Mercenaries at $600 per month plus $500 for each Japanese plane destroyed. Major Chennault was in charge. This was a bit of a stretch for the United States, which at the time, was still neutral.

The preparations for the Normandy Invasion, including the wrangling between the British and the Americans about which was the more important task; invading North Africa, or rushing the Invasion at Normandy, are explored extensively. The thinking and rationale for the landings is laid bare, making the reader feel like part of the decision making process.

The major events in all the Theaters of Operations; as well as the men who planned and executed them; are extensively covered with some surprising facts of which most readers will be previously unaware. I know I was.

The “dance” with Russia and Molotov’s visit to the White House; with the Soviet representatives locking their rooms and sleeping with pistols beneath their pillows; will have you wondering just what the Secret Service was thinking by allowing the weapons to be openly carried in the White House.

How Eisenhower became the war’s architect is also of interest. He was primarily the best logistical commander in history, using his will and knowledge of history to make the most of all the assets available to him and our Allies to achieve victory.

From the days leading up to Pearl Harbor, to the peace which followed the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; and the beginnings of the Cold War; you will find no better account of the men; and some remarkable women; who were able to lead our nation, and the world, through one of the darkest times in our collective histories.

Director Tom Hooper, who made the epic mini-series from David McCullough’s book on John Adams, should take note of this book. Filled with the many rich and varied characters who played such a part in winning the war, this could just be another blockbuster.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

"Aunt Bee's Medicine Man" - The Andy Griffith Show (1963)

When the Patent Medicine Man arrives in Mayberry to sell his “cure”, the ladies all flock to him. With his pseudo-western clothing and knowledge of things unfamiliar in the small town he quickly becomes somewhat of a celebrity. And the women are all in a great mood! So, what’s up in Mayberry and who’s going to find out?

Between Barney’s suspicious nature, and Aunt Bee’s sudden desire to play piano and sing around the house, Andy is forced to do a little digging of his own. And when he’s done with his investigation there’s going to be a big crowd in the town jail.

Proving once again that although life may be complicated, Ockham’s Razor still applies in certain instances, Andy sees that Justice is done on all three fronts in this episode from Episode 3 of the iconic series.

John Dehner plays the role of the medicine man, Colonel Harvey. He began his show business career in an unusual fashion, working as an animator for Walt Disney.  He also worked as a disc jockey and professional pianist. With his deep and rich voice he appeared in about a dozen films during the 1940’s; mostly as a card sharp, or outlaw. He was also known for his work on the TV series “The Roaring Twenties” in which he played a crusading news reporter.

But this appearance made him a member of a very exclusive club from the Andy Griffith Show. Some very famous, up and coming actors appeared in Mayberry. Maybe next week I will post the one with Jack Nicholson. They’re all in Public Domain at this point. Meantime, enjoy the show!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

"School Days" with Flip the Frog - MGM UB Iwerks (1932)

In this MGM cartoon from the early 1930's school is in session once again. One of the local kids seems to have a problem with getting his dog to stay at home alone. When the dog continues to follow him the boy ties him to a steamroller for the day. At least he thinks so...

Arriving at school the boy is greeted by an overflowing playground with seemingly more children than can possibly fit in the one room school house. When class is called into session the children all go inside and meet their very old and not so personable teacher. They engage in all the usual activities associated with school and things seem to be going well in class.

But what about the dog? Remember the dog? He has grown tired of being tied to that steamroller and manages to tow it towards the school. Somehow he becomes untied from the machine as it rolls along on a path of destruction, depositing our canine friend just outside of the schoolhouse where his master studies inside.

Naturally the dog enters the schoolhouse to "sniff out" the location of his master. This serves to enrage the teacher, who promptly throws him outside. There the unfortunate dog meets a skunk, which starts a chase that winds up back inside of the classroom. It is there that the skunk does what skunks do best, necessitating the evacuation of the entire schoolhouse.

But all is not over until the dog, with the aid of his master, is able to shed his tainted skin. This is a very simple and fun cartoon with no real hidden meanings to it. Just fun in black and white.

Ubbe Eert Iwwerks  was an American animator born in 1901. His first job was working for an advertising company in his home town of Kansas City.  He was just 18 years old. This was also where he met Walt Disney. They bonded instantly.

During the 1920’s,  while working together, UB came up with the idea for Mickey Mouse, who Mr. Disney wanted to name Mortimer Mouse instead. UB won out and did most of those early cartoons by himself, frame by frame. By the time the 1930’s arrived UB had grown fed up with Mr. Disney; who was a very demanding boss; as well as not getting the credit he deserved for his accomplishments. (To this day many people credit Mr. Disney with the creation of Mickey Mouse, upon whom he built an empire.) And that’s how UB ended up at MGM. Flip the Frog was the first character he created there, followed by many others.

For more information about this often overlooked artist, use this link;

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Other Elizabeth Smart

While looking up the changes to the Mann Act in the 1970’s and 1980's I came across a citation which stated that the Mann Act had been used in the Elizabeth Smart Case. This really puzzled me, as Ms. Smart was found only 18 miles from her home in Salt Lake City, Utah where she had been kidnapped on June 5, 2002. She was 14 years old at the time. Nine months later she was able to escape her abductors while out with the couple who had kidnapped her.

Brian David Mitchell and his companion, Wanda Ileen Barzee, were indicted kidnapping, and eventually convicted in 2010. The crime has been immortalized in both a book and a movie. So, given the facts I was a bit puzzled about the Mann Act connection. Reading further I found out about the other Elizabeth Smart.

The fact that there was another Elizabeth Smart at all was a real shock to me, and the Mann Act connection was interesting enough that I just had to look even further to find out the circumstances of the case. I thought perhaps there would be some similarities to the two crimes, seeing as how they both involved kidnapping. Boy, was I wrong!

The case of the other Elizabeth Smart couldn’t be more different. The present day Elizabeth Smart was a young girl who was actually kidnapped and the perpetrators sent to jail. The other Elizabeth Smart was about 20 years old at the time of her disappearance from Canada into the United States with her lover, British author George Barker, who was several decades her senior. The age difference was a thorn in her parent’s side, and she had actually run away with him to the United States where they intended to get married. It’s not very clear how they intended to accomplish this as he was already married and had several children at the time. He was as prolific an author as he was a steady progenitor. He had 11 children by other women and 4 more with Ms. Smart!

Her family apparently had enough clout to press charges against Mr. Barker for kidnapping their daughter, who was just shy of being legal at the time. The Mann Act seemed like a good way to go but the charges were later dropped. He returned to England in 1943, where he wrote and published an account of his affair with Ms. Smart; who had also become a longtime collaborator with him. That book was called “The Dead Seagull.” Ms. Smart also wrote about the affair in her books “Grand Central Station” and “I Sat Down and Wept”, neither of which I have read.

There is no lesson in this story; just recounting the story of the other Elizabeth Smart; connected by name, and separated by decades.

For more information about the Mann Act; including a list of some very famous people who have been charged under the statute; go to,

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

"Blesss Me, Ultima" with Miriam Colon (2012)

This film is like a poem. In fluent and ethereal ways the story unfolds about a boy, his grandmother and a bond that exists between them. The story takes place during the middle of World War Two in New Mexico.

A woman comes to live with Antonio’s family; the reason is never really clear why. It is known to the viewer that she delivered all of Antonio’s brothers and sisters. She has a reputation as a “curandera”; or a type of healer; and the boy is immediately drawn to her mystique. Adding to that aura is the way others react to her. They seem to want to keep her distant, which puzzles Antonio.

The boy and the woman take walks together and she teaches him all that she knows about the plants which cure; as well as the ones which will hurt. As they become closer he begins to understand that she is truly at one with nature. Indeed, nature is her God. She speaks with the trees and the rivers, passing that understanding to Antonio.

When a man in the village inadvertently stumble upon a coven of young women holding a blood sacrifice in the woods, he feels he has been cursed, and so takes to bed, seeming possessed and ready to die. No doctor; or Priest; has been able to cure him. This simple woman, who is usually reviled as a witch, is called upon to rid his body of the poison within; be it real or imagined. She takes Antonio with her only after he tells her he is not ashamed to be with her.

What follows will alter Antonio’s life and perceptions of those around him. And as time passes and the old woman gets ready to pass on, she reveals the biggest secret of all to Antonio; the secret of who we are and how we are connected to the world in which we live.

Fluently directed and well written, this film is carefully paced and will leave you thinking about life; and death; just in a different way.

This film is from a contemporary classic novel first released in 1972. It has won many awards for literature and is emblematic of the Chicano struggle for identity in a multicultural society. For more about the book, see Wikipedia at;

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Cindy Walker

She wrote “You Don’t Know Me” in 1955 with Eddy Arnold, but most people don’t even recognize her name. At least not in the way that they do Ray Charles, who had the smash hit with it in 1962; or Kitty Wells, who is often named as the First Lady of Country Music; frequently alongside of Mother Maybelle Carter. But, while Kitty Wells was a prominent country singer; and Maybelle was the Mother of gospel/bluegrass; this particular lady wrote; and recorded; some of country music’s most seminal works. Her name was Cindy Walker.

Born in Mart, Texas in 1918 she began pitching songs to the likes of Bob Wills and other Western-Swing artists when she was about 22 years old. And she never stopped, spanning 4 decades in the business, recording one hit song after another.

From her blues like “I Hear You Talking”; which is reminiscent of Bessie Smith; to the more country type ballads, Ms. Walker could sing and swing with the best of them. Her material cut across all lines of demarcation. Bob Wills recorded her songs, and so did Ray Charles, who had an abiding love for Country Music in general.

Here are just a few of the hundreds of songs Ms. Walker wrote over the tears; most recorded by her at first, before becoming monster hits for other artists;

"Bubbles in My Beer"- George Jones and Willie Nelson

"Take Me in Your Arms & Hold Me”- Eddy Arnold had the hit with this song he co-wrote with Ms. Walker

"You Don't Know Me"- Ray Charles had a hit with it in 1962. It has been covered by hundreds of other artists.

"Sugar Moon"- Bob Wills co-wrote this with Ms. Walker and had a hit with it, as did k.d.lang and Willie Nelson.

"I Don't Care"- Webb Pierce co-wrote it and had a hit with it; as did Ricky Skaggs in the 1980’s.

"Cherokee Maiden"- Bob Wills, Merle Haggard and Asleep at the Wheel

“The Warm Red Wine"- George Jones and Willie Nelson both had hits with this one.

Before her death in 2006 she was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, and she accepted it in the unique and humble way in which she lived her entire life.

Here is Ms. Walker at that Induction Ceremony;

And here is Bob Wills performing "I Hear You Talking" live from an old western movie.

Monday, October 14, 2013

"Shot All to Hell" by Mark Lee Gardner (2013)

Hang on to your hats for this wild and crazy, true ride back into the days of the James-Younger gang as they stage their last bank robbery in Northfield, Missouri in 1876. Most people assume that the James- Younger gang were all killed sometime in the late 1800”s, as the days of the truly Wild West came to a close. I know I did. But the truth is much more interesting. And this book is loaded with it.

The Northfield Raid; in which the James-Younger gang robbed the First National Bank  on September 7, 1876; serves as the starting point for this well written and compelling saga of their last robbery, and subsequent capture. And what a saga it is, as the two bands of brothers take off on a breakneck escape from a robbery where everything went wrong, only to find themselves in the same predicament while trying to escape.

Nothing goes as planned as the gang gallops off, wounded and confused. The whole town heard the commotion of the robbery and quickly armed themselves from the town’s 2 hardware stores, posing a deadly obstacle to what should have been a clean getaway.

With the whole county pursuing the wounded outlaws, it is only a matter of a few days before the gang elects to split up, with Younger Brothers moving more slowly due to the extent f their injuries. The James Brothers began their long ride toward captivity, traveling hundreds of miles from where they left the Youngers.

When the Youngers are captured, they refuse to acknowledge that it was the James Brothers with them in Northfield. But that is little matter to the posses who are chasing them. The reward money has really piled up, and coupled with the past outrages by the James Brothers, it is further incentive to take them dead or alive.

As the trial of the Younger Brothers gets underway, the James Brothers have gone into hiding as “farmers”. They are also big spenders, owning race horses and were always in need of more money. Their brief retirement after the Northfield Raid lasted only about 5 years before Jesse got the urge to begin robbing trains agai. But this time he did not have the aid of the Youngers, or even his brother Frank; all of whom had seen service as Confederates in the bloody border wars with Quantrill’s raiders.

Unlike those former Confederates, the new gang which Jesse assembled felt no allegiance to anyone beyond the amount of the next score. By 1882 Frank had rejoined his brother and the two fell in with the Ford Brothers. The rest, as they say, is history.

Cole Younger and Frank James both lived to be old men; Cole being paroled from prison sometime in the late 1890’s, and Frank James gaining an acquittal around the same time. This is a fascinating and well written account of the most infamous gang of robbers to come out of the old West.

With their mixture of good manners, coupled with a penchant for violence when necessary, the two sets of brothers managed to evoke a sort of sympathy from the general public. As I read this book I could not help but think that if these boys were alive today they would have a Facebook page with about 10 million “friends.” 

Don't be surprised if you find yourself shaking off the dust of the trail as; with a keen eye to history and detail; the author has penned a fascinating and lively book. It is well worth the time it takes to read.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Last Flower

The last flower
Of the year
Stands alone
But sheds no tear
For the coming frost.

Every hour
Brings it near
It seems to know
And shows no fear
Of being lost.

Does it think?
And hold it dear?
It must know that next year
The winds will toss
What reappears?

Saturday, October 12, 2013

"Old Mac Donald Had A Farm" - Screensong (1947)

Beginning around 1929 the “bouncing ball” type of cartoon began to rise in popularity. This was to be expected with the advent of sound in films. But I don’t think that anyone really saw the potential that these cartoons had in the way of becoming classics, evoking a long gone time and all the social gentilities which went along with it.

Think about it; does anyone ride along in the car doing family sing a longs of the old standards anymore? I doubt it. The rise of earphones, I-pods, and all the other electrical gadgets have rendered the family car time a void; with each person plugged into their own spheres. I doubt that any of today’s kids know the words to songs like “The Old Gray Mare” or “Shine on Harvest Moon”, or even “Old MacDonald”, which is the main event in this cartoon from 1947.

I know I sound old and curmudgeonly when I talk like this; but I can’t help but feel sorry for the kids growing up in today’s high tech world. I remember, with nostalgia, riding in the family car listening to AM radio all the way down to Florida before 95 was complete. Passing through so many small towns and catching the local radio stations, complete with farm prices. It was magic. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Scraps - The Makings of a Blog Post

Where do ideas come from? And, more importantly, where do they go when you don’t write them down? I wish I knew the answer to that one so that I could retrieve all of the wonderful ideas which have gotten away when I didn’t get the chance to jot them down. It’s precisely for that reason that I carry a pen and paper everywhere I go. I’d hate to miss something later on.

I could use the electronic devices I carry to make a note to myself, but that just doesn’t feel natural to me. I’m a pen and paper type of guy. And by paper, I mean anything made from the pulp of a tree, be it a legal tablet, notebook, or even a paper bag; preferably one from the fried chicken place, complete with grease stains. There’s something very Faulkner like about writing on a bag of fried chicken. And that’s especially true when you live in North Carolina.

I have written poetry on napkins, book reviews on tiny pieces of paper which had already been written upon; leaving me only the margins within which to write. Ideas are ethereal and unless it is something conceptual, which can be later recalled, capturing the essence of the idea is imperative. This is especially true of songs, which I consider to be gifts; taken right from the air. There are melodies floating out there just waiting to be received. You just have to be tuned in.

And when committing these ideas to paper I usually throw away the notes; eschewing them for the essence of the original thought; and then just go with it. But it’s always different, and that’s what makes it fun.

I don’t pretend to do any real creative writing on here. Oh, now and again a good story works its way in; but they are becoming more and more rare as the years pass. I suppose I am running out of stories worth telling, and I’m not much for fiction. And things like “The Old Black Man” or “The Lovers” are just gems which fall into your lap. The only responsibility for the writer is to record them as accurately as possible, perhaps with a bit of flair to add some drama; or pathos; that will elicit the empathy of the reader.

Does this little article have a purpose? Not really. But it was on one of the scraps of paper indicating that I had thought about writing something on this subject. And, now that I have, I can’t imagine why. I should have written that part down...

Thursday, October 10, 2013

"A Matador's Mistress" with Adrian Brody and Penelope Cruz (2011)

I have been a fan of Adrian Brody since he first appeared in the film “Liberty Heights”, a coming of age drama set in 1950’s Baltimore. That film made me a fan for life. And of course, Penelope Cruz is always in fine form; both professionally and physically, so this film figured to be the type of good period piece which I would enjoy. Well, so much for blind hope.

Originally titled “Manolete”, this film tells the story of the legendary Spanish bullfighter and his love for Lupe Sino, a woman whose love was coveted by many men. She was an actress and also a Communist, which at the time was not a good thing in Spain. The Spanish dictator Franco had just kept his country out of the Second World War as the Communists and Fascists struggled for control. In addition to her own political views her first marriage was to a Communist party member, which only added fuel to the fire which surrounded the actress. That scandal had a definite effect on her lover, the legendary Manolete.

Manolete first rose to prominence at the end of the 19th Century, quickly becoming known as the world’s greatest matador. He was especially known for his method of fighting the bull by standing in one spot while the bull charged him. His expertise at what is known as the “manoletina”, which is the name given to the art of using the bullfighter’s cape to lure the bull in for the final kill.

He died at the age of 30 in the town of Linares where he was about to kill his 5th bull of the day. He was gored in the leg and died the next day. Franco ordered 3 days of mourning at the time of his passing. Only funeral music was permitted to be played on the radio. The event was somewhat akin to the reaction in America after the murder of President Kennedy in 1963. 

This movie had so much potential, but somehow; due mainly to the ethereal manner in which it is directed; never really gets off the ground. The storyline is intense; a world famous bullfighter involved with a siren like woman who fills his every thought, losing sight of his own mortality and then paying the ultimate price for his misguided love. It is also the story of a man who lived on the edge of death; defying it for a living; and how love may have played a role in his untimely demise.

This is a movie I may have to revisit. I have a feeling that I might have missed something while watching it. There can be no other explanation; with a story this good, it would be almost impossible to make a movie this tedious.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

John Lennon at 73

Today would have been John Lennon’s 73rd birthday. Not a landmark one; like 70 or 75; but still an important milestone in life had he lived. It’s about the average age for men in the United States, which is where Mr. Lennon had been living for several years at the time of his all too soon passing. I can’t help but wonder what he would be doing now? Not just in music, but in the hotbed of the political discourse which engulfs us at the present time.

I love You Tube, it is a window into the past; and at the same time that past can often be a glimpse of what the future may have held. Think about President Eisenhower’s vision when he warned us against the “military industrial complex.” It was years before anyone really took him seriously, and by that time it was too late to change course. This got me thinking about many of the things John Lennon had said in his hundreds of interviews in the years before his murder. And that took me back, once again, to You Tube to see what I might find.

Most of the meatier, and lengthier interviews were audio only, so I just picked one from the early 1970’s when John and Yoko had only been in New York for a few years, taking up residence at the Dakota as they fought their battle with immigration, ultimately winning their Alien Registration (green) Cards in time for the Bi-Centennial in 1976. Had he lived, he would have become a Citizen of the United States in 1981.

Life in a fishbowl could not have been easy for Mr. Lennon, and yet I am always proud that he chose my hometown in which to live out his last days. For all of its complexity and seeming vastness, New York is a safe haven for many artists. In a city of 8 million people you rarely expect to see anyone of importance, and so it is easy for the famous ones to walk about with a minimum of fanfare.

John Lennon reveled in that freedom, but also took advantage of the proximity to the media which life in the Big Apple afforded him. During his time there he appeared on every talk show there was, both on television and radio, where he frequently arrived unannounced, but was always welcome by the surprised DJ’s.

Mr. Lennon was larger than the life he led. His willingness to take chances and to seemingly wear his heart on his sleeve, have made us all a bit more free in the long run. I still wonder though, what he would be doing if he were still with us today.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Thoughts on Turning 59

Today is my birthday. 59 years have passed since I made my entrance; almost in a cab as my parents did not own a car at the time; and it has been a wonderful ride ever since. But at 59 you start to look back and wonder about what you have accomplished in the time allotted, and hopefully you don’t find yourself falling too short of the intended mark.

I’m fairly content with my life. I would have liked to work for a few more years, but that just wasn't in the cards. So, when I add it all up, I’m pretty satisfied. Here are two poems; one by Hartley Coleridge, kin to Samuel Taylor Coleridge; and the other by yours truly. I believe I have posted them here before. But, since it’s my birthday; and my blog; I get to post them again if I want to.

The first speaks of regret at not having lived up to your own expectations. The other speaks of being content with what you have done, even if it falls short of what others expect of you. Naturally, I identify more with the latter, and is probably why I wrote it in the first place.

“Long Time a Child” by Hartley Coleridge  (1759)

Long time a child, and still a child, when years
Had painted manhood on my cheek, was I, -
For yet I lived like one not born to die;
A thriftless prodigal of smiles and tears,
No hope I needed, and I knew no fears.

But sleep, though sweet, is only sleep, and waking,
I waked to sleep no more, at once o'ertaking
The vanguard of my age, with all arrears
Of duty on my back. Nor child, nor man,
Nor youth, nor sage, I find my head is gray,
For I have lost the race I never ran:

A rathe December blights my lagging May;
And still I am a child, though I be old,
Time is my debtor for the years untold.

“Could’ve” by Robert Williams

I could’ve been much more than I am,
A King, or a Prince, not just a mere man.
But I spent my life doing just all that I could,
to get through the years doing not what I should.

And so in the finish, the questions I’ll ask;
Alone late at night in mirror’s mask;
Are “What if I weren't the man that I see?”, and
“Who would I be now – If I weren't me?”

Monday, October 7, 2013

"Five Days at Memorial" by Sheri Fink (2013)

No other natural disaster in my lifetime has made such an impression upon the public as the events at Memorial Hospital in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina in August of 2005, when, for 5 days and nights, people died and pandemonium ruled at Memorial Hospital.

In many ways Katrina was the perfect storm, in that it exposed many of the weaknesses and laid bare the complacency which has overtaken us as a society. The ignored warnings, the slipshod planning, the sheer waste of all imaginable resources; school buses being left to rot under water when there weren't enough vehicles to get everyone out; all combine with the predicament at Memorial Hospital, where patients were being given lethal injections of morphine without their knowledge, or consent.

If that last paragraph seems sprawling and slightly manic there is reason for it. That’s the way it was in New Orleans at the time, and that’s the way the book presents itself. With a very deft hand, Ms. Fink has drawn a gripping narrative of the approaching storm, its impact and the aftermath.

In the end, more questions were raised by the 4 days of Katrina than answered in the 8 years since the event. Although recent disaster relief efforts in New York City and elsewhere have shown improvement there is still much to be learned from the lessons of New Orleans.

Culled from 6 years’ worth of researching just about every available document on the subject, the author has left nothing out as she tells the story of the events which spiraled way out of control along with the storm. Carefully looking at each of the key players in the hospital itself, the author also presents a bit of the social history which contributed to the chaos and confusion in Memorial Hospital for those 5 days.

During that time, a doctor named Anna Pou initiated the killing by morphine overdose of over 2 dozen patients, some of whom were merely awaiting routine surgery. By the year after Katrina, in 2006, Louisiana’s Attorney General had Dr. Pou arrested, along with two nurses who had assisted her. The case was never tried and all charges were dismissed. In addition, the state was required to pay the legal fees of the former defendants, and the charges were expunged.

The subject of Euthanasia is, of necessity, explored here as well. Beginning with King Saul and his exploits in the Old Testament, where he is wounded and asks to be killed; a request which is denied to him and leads to the execution of the man who denied it; before moving on to the teachings and interpretations of Hippocrates; and then exploring the actions of Bonaparte’s army during the Plague; as well as the teachings of Margaret Read; the author explores the dual questions of just when it is okay to take a life; and for what reasons?

This was a difficult book to read, as it touches upon so many questions we all ask, but often never give utterance to. It is also, in some ways, an indictment of ourselves and the complacency which we are all guilty of. That complacency and the attendant lack of individual responsibility all helped to contribute to the situation in New Orleans. In turn, that situation led to the bizarre killings at Memorial Hospital by the very people who were trained to protect and save lives. This is a remarkable book which will affect the reader for some time to come.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Religion on Bumper Stickers

Many people display their religious beliefs on bumper stickers. From the ubiquitous “WWJD”; as if anyone really knows; to the more subtle ones; you can find them all on the bumpers of cars. But of all the ones out there, this is by far the most important one, as it emphasizes respect for one another’s beliefs. And that includes being able to laugh at ourselves, no matter what denomination we hail from. In that spirit I propose to have a bit of fun with this bumper sticker, the message of which I happen to agree with.

Let’s look at the symbols and what they represent, and then surmise what would really transpire if these different religions were to sit down and discuss something important beyond sentiment. To do this we have to look at this as a recap of a scrimmage play in some respects. In other words, what would each player do in this circumstance?

The C in Coexist is meant to represent the Islamic religion, which is why it has a star resting near the horns. That’s the symbol of the Islamic faith. It also dates further back to ancient times and the goddess Diana. The O in Coexist is the international sign for peace. It came about after the Second World War and the beginnings of the Nuclear Disarmament Movement.  It originated in England. The E is a combination of the male and female logos for Venus and Mars. It also is meant to represent the opposite sexes living in harmony. The X is a clever rendering of the Jewish Star of David, which is comprised of two equilateral triangles. The I is a Pagan, or Wiccan, Pentacle which rests upon the letter I.  It also represents the earth elements and beyond that I know very little. The S the Taoist Yin Yang also often associated with Buddhism. Yin and Yang represent the two opposite forces of nature, working in harmony. The T in Coexist is obviously a Christian Cross, which is a symbol representing Jesus Crucifixion.
That’s the real scoop; now let’s have some fun. If these different religions were to sit down at the same table, this is my impression of what would ensue.

First off, the Christians will never stand for being the last on the list. The meek may inherit the earth eventually, but the Church owns it now. They would insist on being first, putting them at odds with the Islamics, who are listed first, and would surely not yield that position. This calamity would have the Peace group demonstrating against the attendant violent nature of the confrontation between the first two. The E group of believers would make a good show of it at first, but soon dissolve precisely due to the fact that they are Venus and Mars, and if you've read that book you can see how that will work out.

This leaves the Wiccans and Taoists to battle it out for control. The Wiccans would cast spells using the elements which they worship in the hopes of disrupting the prayers of the Taoists, and probably ending in a stalemate. This leaves the Jews, standing just where they have for ages; in the middle; the place where it all began, with the others radiating outward in opposite directions.

So, what we need is one symbol to bring us all together. Let’s see, what color, shape and size? And who will own it? Even the Coexist bumper sticker is copyrighted, and in an effort to bring about World Peace and Harmony, they just might sue me for using the image. It’s copyrighted, meaning they own it. How can anyone believe that it is even morally possible to copyright everyone’s Gods and World Peace?

Saturday, October 5, 2013

"Song of the Birds" with Little Audrey (1949)

The Little Audrey series of cartoons were not really on my radar as a boy growing up. As a matter of fact, until recently, while searching for a cartoon I had never really even watched one all the way through. I suppose as a boy I considered them to be “girl’s cartoons”; the same way certain films are labeled to be “chick-flicks.” This type of thinking can cause a person to miss out on some really fine entertainment. “Fried Green Tomatoes” springs to mind immediately, as does the classic novel “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.”

In this 1949 cartoon, Little Audrey has a BB gun and; like all good children everywhere; she can hardly wait to shoot something with it. After a bit of practice on the cuckoo clock the family maid banishes her outdoors warning her of the trouble likely to come from Audrey’s BB gun. Although the maid may seem to be politically incorrect, she is always the smartest one in these cartoons, and you do have to wonder where the hell Audrey's parents are.

Audrey is nonplussed at being thrown out, and seeks to shoot the first thing which will stand still. The squirrel gets away after delivering a real tongue lashing at Audrey, who then proceeds to shoot at a baby bird who is just learning to fly. As the bird falls to the ground the mother is in anguish at the loss of her little one. And Little Audrey is grief stricken at what she has done.

The Weeping Willows weep, and the whole world of nature mourns the passing of the young bird as Audrey retreats to her house in shame and remorse. But sometimes miracles occur, and as the mother bird is burying her child a sudden storm breaks out, unleashing the rain which revives the fallen bird. As the animals rejoice Audrey hears the song of the birds and rushes outside in great relief, breaking her rifle in half to show that she has changed.

With a box of bird seed in hand she attempts to bring back the trust the birds once had in mankind, but that is easier said than done. As Audrey turns, forlorn and rejected, one brave little blue bird leaves the safety of the trees and lands on her shoulder. When the other birds see that no harm comes to the little blue bird they all come out and happiness is restored to the forest once again.

This cartoon is very reminiscent of the 1963 Andy Griffith Show episode in which Opie does the same thing as Little Audrey. The results are the same and Opie also learns the value of life by his mistake. You can view the first part of that episode here;

These old cartoons and television shows contain an awful lot of wisdom in them. In today’s world they may seem quaint and old fashioned, but the world was a seemingly less violent place just a few decades ago. In light of all the recent mass shootings I thought maybe a refresher course in responsibility was in order. And what better way to see things more clearly than through the eyes of a child.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Eddie Ray at Kannapolis Libray

Last evening the Kannapolis Library hosted the legendary Eddie Ray for a combination book signing and question and answer session, as well as showing a film about his life and some of his accomplishments. I say “some” because a film encompassing all that Mr. Ray has accomplished during his 6 decades in the recording industry would take a film of epic proportions to cover all the bases which he has touched. In tones ranging from whimsical to witty, Mr. Ray held the audience enraptured recounting his early years in North Carolina and his path to Los Angeles via Connecticut. If that sounds confusing you'll have to read the book...

As usual, Mr. Ray took a bit of the limelight off of himself, directing it at his current “work in progress”, the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame, located just a few blocks from the library in the old Kannapolis Jail house on West A Street. That little museum is a gateway to the rich and colorful history of all the varied performers to come out of our state. They represent every one of the many musical genres; from rock and roll, beach music all the way through jazz and even opera.

Eddie Ray spent so many years behind the scenes of the music industry, spotting new artists and encouraging them along the way. His name doesn't appear often on the many record jackets/CD liners of the music he was instrumental in bringing to the public’s attention, but the music you listen to today would probably be a bit different if it were not for this guy. I can’t believe I actually know him; as he colored much of the world in which I grew up with the music he chose to promote. It was a joy to see that so many people came out to meet and greet him.

His memoir, "Against All Odds" chronicles his life in the music industry; rising from the stockroom to the boardroom, and even on to Washington itself, where he served on the President's Copyright Tribunal under Ronald Reagan. You can read a review of that book here;

For more about Eddie Ray, and the NC Music Hall of Fame, please use the following links;